What Makes Titanium Perfect for Gravel and Adventure Bikes?
It never fails. Whenever we attend an event or expo, several riders run their hand over one of the bikes on display, reminiscing about their experience with titanium. And if they no longer own that bicycle, they inevitably express sadness about having let it go.
So what is it that makes titanium the ideal material for gravel and adventure bikes? And just what is it about riding titanium that leaves such an impression?
We could do a deep dive into the material properties of titanium and make a case that its low density and high tensile strength make for more durable frames than carbon fiber; how its elongation properties can be used to make a comfortable ride with near-infinite fatigue life, which leads to that lively feel so often associated with Ti. But while great-riding frames aren’t a given in any material, the truth of the matter is that today’s engineers can build great-riding, lightweight, and durable bikes out of aluminum, steel, and carbon as well as titanium.
There’s no doubt that part of titanium’s prestige can be chalked up to its traditional position at the higher end of the pricing spectrum. Because the raw material is itself expensive, raw tubes and fittings cost more than steel and aluminum. Titanium also takes more care to weld than other materials. It’s not difficult per se, but oxygen is the enemy of a durable titanium joint and the weld zone must be flooded with inert gas to ensure a strong connection. Next to steel and aluminum, titanium machining takes time and patience, requiring slower cutting speeds and sharp cutting tools. These input costs drive the price of a finished titanium frame up which, along with the fact that tube-to-tube construction lends itself to custom geometry, have traditionally made it the choice of well-heeled riders.
Durability and Ease Of Maintenance Make Titanium The Ideal Material for Gravel and Adventure Bikes
As wonderful as it is on the road, part of what makes titanium particularly suited to gravel, adventure, and bikepacking bikes is the metal’s real-world livability. Not only can titanium weather cyclical loads and return to shape longer than you or I are likely to be riding, but it is corrosion resistant, wear resistant, and doesn’t require painting. That means that rubbing from heels, bags, or cables is of little concern. Anyone who has felt panic in their throat from the sound of an airborne rock striking carbon can be (relatively) unconcerned when stones hit their titanium downtube.
Titanium’s cosmetics are durable as well: the moderate scratches and the bag-induced buffing that inevitably come with use can be easily be buffed out with a Scotch-Brite pad. It’s not uncommon to see decade-old titanium frames that look almost new, even those that have seen thousands of miles of off-road use.
Titanium is Timeless
But there’s something more than practical advantages. There’s a quiet confidence to an unadorned titanium frame that –in not trying overly hard to make an impression- makes it stand out in a pack or at a coffee stop, drawing comments and compliments in a way that the latest and greatest carbon frame simply won’t. Classic in appearance, a titanium frame built with up-to-date standards will take years, rather than months, to become dated. On the whole, titanium frames tend to be retired as the result of evolving component standards rather than changing fashions or any concern about their strength or safety.
In a time where we have become increasingly aware of the environmental and societal impact of disposable products, titanium’s durability, use tolerance, and crash resilience are more important than ever before. There’s a comfort in knowing that the titanium bicycle you buy today will be ridden, by someone, in ten, fifteen, or twenty years. Even if they’re no longer being raced or serving as their owners’ primary ride, it’s not unusual to see decades-old titanium frames brought out for special days, reborn as commuters, or outfitted for child carrying duty. While the ‘forever bike’ is as mythical for many riders as the ‘one bike stable’, a forward-looking titanium frame is about as close to that ideal as we have.
The Price of Titanium Bike Frames Has Stayed Relatively Stable
Now for the best part: while mid-tier and premium carbon fiber frames have crept up in price, titanium has largely stayed steady. Builders dedicated to the material have become established and stock sizes have reduced the time and effort it takes to build each frame. As a result, production titanium frames have brought modern titanium frames within reach of more riders than ever before.
And with functional and aesthetically-pleasing features like tapered head tubes, cast bottom bracket assemblies, and internal cable routing, titanium bikes have never been better. We think of the frames we sell as being bikes for people who like bikes– those who appreciate a well-considered and beautifully executed details.
Is A Titanium Gravel Bike Right For You?
If you’re a rider who likes the idea of a frame that will provide a comfortable, lively ride for years to come then there’s a good chance the answer is yes. If you understand that stiffness and weight–while they do have some impact–aren’t the main determinants of a good ride then probably yes. And if you like the idea of purchasing something that can be truly used as a vehicle for adventure, then almost certainly.
We Specialize In Titanium Gravel and Adventure Bikes
At Lindarets, our passion for all disciplines of cycling spans decades. But as our personal riding style has gravitated toward distance mixed-terrain and mountain biking around our home base of Albuquerque, NM, we’ve had the opportunity to explore products best suited for this emerging category of riding. For gravel, monstercross, bikepacking, and endurance mountain biking, titanium bike frames continue to impress.
Over the last several years and thousands of miles of riding, we’ve partnered with two niche titanium frame builders, J.Guillem and Chiru Endurance Bikes, who are ahead of the curve in both their frame design and titanium manufacturing mastery. And they do it at at a price that may surprise you.
With these frames, a mix of modern componentry, and some of our own unique in-house designed products, we’re able to offer a fine assortment of titanium gravel, adventure, and endurance mountain bike builds. Bicycles with ride quality, details, and durability that will delight for years to come. While these builds provide the best balance of quality, price, and performance possible, the truth is that most bicycles are built to suit their owners. We love nothing more than to spend the time tailoring a build to your terrain, goals, and budget. Simply contact us to explore your custom build options.
The best titanium road bikes in 2021
- Reilly Gradient: £3,249
- Reilly T325: £3,798
- Sabbath Mondays Child Mark II: £2,880
- Dolan Titanium ADX Disc Ultegra: £2,402
- Kinesis GTD: £4,000
- Moots Vamoots Disc RSL: £4,505
- Spa Cycles Elan: £2,180
4.5 out of 5 star rating
It really is the chassis where the Reilly wins big. Robert Smith
- £3,249 (as pictured)
- Awesome handling
- Beautiful frameset
Built up with a selection of smart components, Reilly’s Gradient is capable of tackling all kinds of on and off-road adventures.
The frameset is the real star of the show though. As well as being stunning to look at, the Reilly Axis “ultra-butted” tubing and frame angles imbue the bike with a lively ride that balances speed and comfort incredibly well.
As befitting of an adventure bike it also has mounts for luggage, mudguards and a third bottle cage as standard, and Reilly backs its workmanship with a lifetime warranty on the frame.
4.5 out of 5 star rating
The Reilly T325 is a titanium bike with a racy edge. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £3,798 (as pictured)
- Fun and fast
- Wonderful ride quality
A bike for the person who wants one bike to race forever more, Reily’s T325 has a semi-compact frame for added stiffness and an aggressively short head-tube to help you get into a long and low position.
It’s not quite as light as an equivalent carbon race bike, but unless you’re only riding hill climbs or a real weight weenie, you probably won’t notice this, so good is the ride quality.
Reilly also offers a lifetime warranty on the frame.
Sabbath Mondays Child Mark II
4.5 out of 5 star rating
The Sabbath Mondays Child Mark II will tackle out-of-the-saddle climbs with no problems. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £2,880 (as pictured)
- Fast, efficient frame
- Quality wheels and groupset
With its oversized head tube and bottom bracket, as well as a semi-compact frame design, Sabbath’s Mondays Child is stiff enough to race, with its confidence-inspiring geometry making it a particularly noteworthy descender.
Its high-stiffness does mean a little sacrifice in ride comfort, but the smartly specced tubeless-ready wheels and tubeless Schwalbe Pro One tyres soften the ride enough for all-day comfort.
The frame also comes with a lifetime warranty, so you needn’t worry about it lasting the distance either.
Dolan Titanium ADX Disc Ultegra
4.0 out of 5 star rating
Dolan has a reputation for producing value-packed bikes. Dolan
- £2,402 (as pictured)
- Smooth riding frame with good value spec
- Clearance for chunky tyres
Dolan has a well-earned reputation for producing good value bikes, and its Titanium ADX Disc is likely to only reinforce that.
The smart-looking frame and Deda carbon fork come kitted out with Shimano’s excellent Ultegra groupset and a host of other quality components, all at a very reasonable price for a titanium bike.
With its tall head tube (205mm on our tester’s 58.5cm test bike) it has a sportive-focussed geometry, but this is a bike designed to pamper you over long distance. Unless you have the flexibility of a professional road racer, you’ll likely appreciate the elevated position.
You’ll also probably appreciate the generous tyre clearance – thanks to addition of disc brakes, the Dolan has clearance for up to 35mm tyres, so you can go big enough to smooth out rough roads or take on light gravel.
4.0 out of 5 star rating
An all-year, titanium mile-eater and bags of fun, too. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £4,000 (as pictured)
- Lovely frame with great kit
- Plenty of customisation options available
Though Kinesis is better known for its range of aluminium bikes, it has quietly offered a decent titanium road bike for a long time. The GTD name is an abbreviation of ‘Go The Distance’, which is just what it’s designed to do – this is an ultra-endurance, mile-munching machine.
Its disc brake setup allows clearance for up to 34mm tyres, meaning you can comfortably fit big rubber, too.
At £2,100 for the frameset alone it doesn’t come cheap, but built up with quality components it offers a brilliant package for audaxing, fast-touring and all-year round road riding.
Moots Vamoots Disc RSL
4.0 out of 5 star rating
The Moots Vamoots Disc RSL Ben Delaney / Immediate Media
- $14,505 (as pictured)
- Exquisite craftsmanship
- Very pricey
Sitting on the racier end of the spectrum the Vamoots Disc RSL has stiff, oversized tubing and aggressive angles and fit, but still maintains that classic, smooth titanium ride quality the material is so prized for.
Unlike many small frame builders, Moots is able to incorporate modern manufacturing processes like 3D printing (which is used to make the dropouts, for example) into their process. The result is a beautifully constructed bike that blends the best of classic and modern production methods.
It all comes at a cost though – whether you spec it with the latest and greatest components or go for something more workmanlike, there’s no getting away from the fact that this is a rather expensive bike, to say the least. If your pockets are deep enough though, you’re unlikely to be disappointed.
Spa Cycles Elan
4.0 out of 5 star rating
Ideal for just about any terrain: flat, rolling, climbing, descending… David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £2,180 (as pictured)
- Comfortable, do-anything bike
- Old-school style
Spa Cycles has been catering to the needs of British touring cyclists for over 40 years, so the company knows a thing or two about what works for that type of riding.
The Elan combines smart, old-school styling and features such as external cable routing and a threaded bottom bracket, with modern touches including disc brakes and decent tyre clearance, making for a reliable, do-anything bike that will serve you well for a very long time.
The riding position is comfortably upright thanks to its tall-ish head tube, but our tester found the frame stiff enough to get moving when cranking it up in the drops.
The 10-speed Shimano 105 drivetrain (complete with a triple chainset for a true blast from the past) that came on our test bike is a little dated, but it performed admirably and Spa Cycles nevertheless offers plenty of customisation options if it’s not to your taste.
Van Nicholas Yukon Disc
3.5 out of 5 star rating
The Yukon Disc falls somewhere between a tourer and race bike. David Caudery / Immediate Media
- £3,911 (as pictured)
- Great handling
- High quality, customisable build
Van Nicholas is a Dutch-based brand that has done more than its fair share to popularise titanium bikes – and for good reason. The Yukon Disc has a great frame that could be made to truly sing with a few different component choices (as on our test bike).
At 9.67kg including full-length mudguards, it’s pretty lightweight for a touring bike, and its 34t x 34t bottom gear ought to be low enough to winch you up steep pitches. Likewise, there’s very little flex from the frame, making it an efficient climber.
Curiously, though, the bike has clearance for up 35mm tyres, but our test rig came set up with 25mm Mavic tyres – not bad tyres by any stretch, but a little slim for something that’s designed to be an all-day mile muncher. An upgrade to something with more volume would likely make a significant difference because the bike we tested was a little firm at the rear end.
Finally, the slightly dropped seatstays might not appeal to the purists, but it’s a modern design touch that differentiates the Yukon Disc from its peers.
What to look for when buying a titanium bike
Like any kind of bike, geometry plays a massive part in the way a titanium bike rides and handles, so you want to ensure the bike you purchase matches the type of riding you intend to do on it.
Titanium bikes tend to be designed for long-distance riding, so the geometry will often be relatively relaxed, with a taller head tube, slacker angles and a longer wheelbase.
The slacker steerer angles and longer wheelbase aid stability and give a slightly slower, more deliberate response to steering compared to a twitchy race bike.
It also puts you in a more upright position, with less weight on your hands and less strain on your neck, shoulder and back muscles. You might have to sacrifice a little in aerodynamics, but over the course of a long ride across rough terrain the gains in comfort could pay dividends.
If you want to race or have a more aggressive position on the bike, you’ll be looking for a frame with a shorter head tube, steeper angles and shorter chainstays.
The advent of disc brakes for road bikes has not only been great for slowing you down, but has opened up the possibility for manufacturers to build in much greater tyre clearance to bikes. Subsequently, many titanium road bikes are now offering clearance for up to 35mm road tyres.
This not only brings benefits in terms of comfort and potentially reduced rolling resistance, but it also has the potential to massively increase a bike’s versatility, moving firmly into gravel bike territory.
This is ideal if, for example, you live in a country (like the United Kingdom, where BikeRadar is based) where the road quality generally varies from bad to appalling.
Even if you prefer rim brakes, many modern rim brake calipers can accommodate up to 28mm tyres on wide rims, so it’s worth checking the frame and fork can handle that as well.
A titanium bike is likely to cost a fair amount more than an equivalent carbon, aluminium or steel bike, simply because the nature of the material makes it more difficult to construct frames and parts from.
Without going into too much detail, the machining, welding and finishing of titanium bikes are more labour-intensive processes that require specialist skills and equipment, compared to other frame building materials. All of this increases production costs and, inevitably, these costs are passed on to the consumer.
However, where a titanium bike makes up for its initial cost is in longevity. It’s an extremely resilient material, meaning titanium bikes can take a lot of knocks and punishment without trouble.
With that in mind, many manufacturers will offer a lifetime warranty on titanium frames to the original owner, giving you peace of mind that should you run into any production issues further down the line they’ll have you covered
10 great titanium gravel bikes
- Ribble CGR Ti Gravel – £3,099
- Reilly Cycleworks Gradient – from £3,349.00
- J.Guillem Atalaya Gravel – ~£3,600
- Van Nicholas Rowtag — from £3,377.00
- Enigma Escape GRX – £4,000
- Enigma Excel GR – £3,685.99 (frame & fork)
- Sonder Camino Ti – from £1,899.00
- Knolly Cache – US$3,150.00 (frame & fork)
- Salsa Fargo Ti – £3,000 (frame & fork)
- J.Laverack GRiT — from £4,750.00